Clover at Howard Vineyard

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date of visit: Sunday 5 February 2017

disclaimer: I was a guest of Howard Vineyard

It’s been six years since I last visited (and ate) at Howard Vineyard. Six. I know this because I went there with a couple of friends, one of whom was visiting from England, and a three month old who had just discovered his voice. We had a very pleasant lunch, punctuated by a shouty baby. It was mid-week and hopefully we didn’t disturb too many other diners.

Although I’ve been on many visits to the Hills since, we’ve not made it quite as far as Nairne on many occasions. However, since late last year, Howard has been on my radar due to the newly released Blanc de Noir. I’m a big fan of sparkling wine and have wanted to try it.

So when Howard Vineyard dropped me a press release, announcing the return of Heather Day (former Masterchef contestant and the brains behind HeyDay butter) to the Clover restaurant kitchen, along with an invitation to lunch ‘yes’ was a very obvious response.

Andy and I left a disgruntled Master 6 (‘why can’t I go to lunch too?’) with my parents and headed for the Hills on a rather overcast afternoon.  The Clover restaurant is indoors but does have a large outdoor seating area, which on this particular Sunday was hosting a group of 60 (!) – so we were very pleased to be tucked away inside.

Naturally I had already sussed out the short menu online. The philosophy is seasonality, with many ingredients foraged or sourced from the kitchen garden. The menu’s focus is predominantly Asian with dishes designed to share. There are just three small plates, three large plates and three sides. Personally, I find short menus a LOT more reassuring than long ones. I eat everything so it’d be a big call (or a rubbish menu!) to find myself in a position of not wanting to eat anything. A short menu is indicative of a competent kitchen that knows its limits and would rather produce a small number of different dishes well and consistently, than attempting a cast of thousands.

That said – if you are a picky eater, you should definitely do your homework prior to heading to Howard!

For groups of four or more there is a ‘feed me’ option which is just $49 per person. However, as a group of two, we ordered one small plate and two large plates. We did consult with our waitress about how much we should order and she said this should be fine but if we were needing more, extra plates wouldn’t be a problem.

First out, however, were our drinks – Clover Sauvignon Blanc for Andy and a glass of the Blanc de Noir for me. You can’t taste the Blanc de Noir at the cellar door but you can buy yourself a glass of it. I cannot recommend that course of action highly enough!

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Next came the dumplings. They are prawn and pork and you receive ten with a lovely sharp and sour soy and shallot dressing. The dumplings were packed full (always very important – no one likes an explosion of steaming hot water on biting in!), with good flavour and I loved the dressing. The sourness of it, combined with the saltiness of the soy, made the whole lot incredibly moreish. Andy thought the dressing was too sour, so that the sourness obliterated other flavours. I beg to differ on that one.

For our large plates we had gone for the BBQ pork and the Cambodian beef vermicelli salad. The other alternative is the Major Tom’s spicy chicken (described as ‘with a sweet and sour glaze’). One look at the words ‘sweet and sour’ was enough to put me off that one. 

However, we were VERY fortunate, because a little mix up saw us receive the Major Tom’s chicken instead of the beef. We were told that as the chicken is the most popular dish, the kitchen would like us to try it while our beef was prepared.

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What a happy, happy accident because that chicken was soooo good. I’m not sure how it’s been done (and frankly, why spoil the magic?) but it’s almost like the chicken has either had a very light batter and then fry or the skin has been left on and crisped up. Either way, you have a bowl full of beautifully moist chicken with an almost crispy outer, in a delicious sauce, with some gentle background heat, that is not at all anything like I would imagine when I hear ‘sweet and sour glaze’. It’s topped with bean sprouts for extra crunch and some fresh chilli for extra zing. If you only try one dish at Clover, it might as well be this one. I can see why it is the most popular dish.

The BBQ pork is served almost san choy bow style – with lettuce cups, herbs, cucumber, crushed peanuts and what Andy described as a BBQ sauce. The pork was lovely and moist but for me, this was my least favourite dish as it lacked the flavour punch of the others. Andy disagreed.

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Finally, the Cambodian beef, presented on top of the noodles, with herbs, carrot, bean sprouts, peanuts and crispy shallots. Alongside it, a really refreshing dipping sauce redolent with fish sauce and chilli. I loved this dish – and not just because I love noodles. But also I loved the combination of flavours and textures, especially the additional heat from the dipping sauce. It was very easy to eat and adjust each mouthful as you went. I was very careful to ensure I polished off as many of those crispy shallots as I could!

By this point, it transpired that our original order would have been enough for the two of us. Despite a couple of good attempts at polishing off the chicken, we ended up leaving some on each plate. So if two are dining together, I recommend one small and two large plates.

We finished off the meal by sharing the sorbet – the flavour of the day was lemon and it was like eating frozen lemon curd with the extra fresh lemon zest. It was a delicious combination of super sweet and super tart (and super lemony) all at once. The sorbet was not at all icy – it was almost creamy with a stretchiness to it. It was also a MASSIVE portion. Neither of us would have been able to eat one on our own and we even left quite a lot.

We then headed over to the bar to taste through the wines. At this point, the folly of the sorbet became obvious. Our palates were shot with sweet, lemony flavours – and guess what? Not only did they swamp the wines, they really didn’t work with them at all. My advice? Taste wine first, eat second. Or eat, taste wine and then eat sorbet. 

Although this isn’t a piece about wines – I do want to point out here that Howard Vineyard is one of the few wineries that makes a straight Cabernet Franc (well, actually, they make two). Cabernet Franc is often found in blends (with Cab Sav and Merlot – it is one of the six grape varieties allowed in Bordeaux) but shines on its own in a couple of regions in France’s Loire Valley. It has a stalkiness to it which I find very attractive and I wish there was more straight CF to be had.

So at Howard Vineyard you get to try some lovely wine (my two picks being the Blanc de Noir and the Clover Cabernet Franc) and you get to eat some tasty food which sings with freshness, texture and layers of flavour.

The only down side? At present, Clover is only open on a Sunday, between 12 and 3 and bookings are recommended. Even with a huge party in on Sunday, both the kitchen and the front of house staff handled the load with (apparent!) ease. And that speaks volumes for both how well organised things are and the calibre of the staff themselves.

Howard Vineyard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Clover at Howard Vineyard
Lot 1, 53 Bald Hills Road, Nairne
South Australia 5252
cellar door: (08) 8188 0203

The Duck Inn, Coromandel Valley

Orecchiette with chorizo, asparagus, spinach and red onion
Orecchiette with chorizo, asparagus, spinach and red onion

date of visit: Sunday 22 January 2017

Our last (and only prior) visit to the Duck Inn was about eight years ago. Yep. Eight years ago. We didn’t have a great experience – although a big part of that was some rather disruptive children (I’m still pretty grumpy about children’s behaviour, even though I now have one of my own). And it’s taken us eight long years to recover and return.

And our return wasn’t even premeditated! We’d had a day out in the Hills and our plan had been for a late lunch or early dinner somewhere in our wanderings. It turned out that our activities wrapped up around 4pm – too early for most places to be serving and too early for dinner. So we headed home, paused at Apex Park, and hit The Duck Inn’s dining room for pretty much bang on 5:30 (opening time).

Since our last visit, The Duck Inn has installed a deck area so you can sit outside and eat or drink. Even though the pub is slap bang on Main Road, it’s still a semi-rural setting so sitting outside is not to be sneezed at. We sat inside though – we hadn’t booked and I was actually quite surprised we got a table at all!

The dining room is separate from the front bar and, in a very pleasant change (at least as far as this grumpy old lady is concerned!), it’s actually pretty quiet. On a Sunday afternoon there is live music in the front bar but everything is set up so you can just hear the music but your conversation is not drowned out. Please, please – keep things this way!

Luckily, the menu had changed since our last visit (!) and it’s a bit more interesting than a pub standard – and there is also a short list of specials. In a slightly controversial (at least as far as our six year old is concerned) move, there is currently no salt and pepper squid on the menu, but you can choose a spicy squid salad, a burger or a schnitzel or you can go for something less pub-like by choosing a slow-braised duck ragout or twice-cooked pork belly.

I opted for the pasta special – orecchiette with Barossa chorizo, asparagus, spinach and red onion in a white wine and cream sauce (this is the type of pasta that Andy LOATHES so I have to go for it while I’m out – though I was sorely tempted by the gnocchi with Adelaide Hills forest mushrooms …). Andy and Master 6 both ordered fish and chips. Master 6 ordered from the very short children’s menu – which includes a drink and an icecream sundae. Rather than activity packs for children, the children’s menu is printed on an activity sheet (just the right number of activities too!) and the staff will give you a pencil case full of pencils & a sharpener. I think this is a great approach. Another big plus is that all the children’s meals come with salad (hoo-bloody-ray!).

The food all got a big tick – the difference between ‘normal’ fish and chips and the children’s was that adults get two pieces of fish, children one (although as an adult, you can order a half portion) and children get tomato sauce rather than tartare sauce. The salad is actually an Asian slaw which obviously has a soy sauce based dressing. This is a little disconcerting – as it arrives looking a touch brown – but it was fresh and crisp!

The pasta wasn’t too bad – there was tons of the sauce which isn’t a problem because you can just leave what you don’t eat. I really enjoyed the combination of flavours and it wasn’t overly salty (which often happens, especially when cured meats like chorizo are introduced …). The portion was generous without being overwhelming (I was starving so I might feel differently about this on another visit).

The staff were all friendly and service was casual but efficient. Even at 5:30 on a Sunday there were quite a few tables eating and if you want to dine at a busier time, I would recommend booking.

As I realised while we were there, The Duck is part of the group which also boasts The Mile End (I wrote about this pub a couple of years ago for SA Life), The Colonist and The Unley. I’ve been lucky enough to be a guest at events at these pubs previously and the aim is clearly to lift the standard of the menus. I’m really pleased that the same approach has been applied to The Duck. We’re also pleased it’s close to home – we’ll be return visitors!

The Duck Inn
393 Main Road
Coromandel Valley 5051
phone: 08 8278 7100

The Duck Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2KW’s Summer Cocktail Launch

Montenegro Sour
Montenegro Sour

date: Sunday 11 December 2016

disclaimer: I was a guest at the launch.

I am not a big cocktail drinker (unless, by ‘cocktail’ you mean ‘gin and tonic’) so I was really pleased that my invitation to 2KW’s cocktail launch included a plus one. This means you get a slightly more balanced view of the cocktails that will be on offer over summer.

Of course, 2KW doesn’t need the drawcard of slick cocktails. I’m not sucking up to anyone here, but it has to be one of Adelaide’s go-to bars. If nothing else, the view is spectacular. Of course, the outdoor bar (as well as the indoor bar), the misters and its food (be warned though – the restaurant can be a bit noisy) make it an all-in-one package. You do have to be a bit mindful of the dress code though, and for some of us that makes it a bit more of a destination rather than somewhere you’d just randomly visit. I unwaveringly recommend it as somewhere to checkout to visitors. Those views …

trays of canapes
snacks

The summer cocktail launch was held on a warm afternoon – very conducive to a few cool beverages with friends. Four new cocktails were featured, along with some very tasty canap├ęs and a summer special, the Vermouth Spritzer.

First up – the Montenegro Sour. Although I’m usually not fan of the herbal liqueurs (and indeed, orange) this was quite refreshing and I think would definitely appeal to anyone with a slight sweet tooth (or with a love of chocolate and orange). This was rated even more highly by my friend.

Pickled Pineapple Whisky Smash
Pickled Pineapple Whisky Smash

Next, the Pickled Pineapple Whisky Smash. When the two mixologists responsible for the new cocktails told us it was made with a smoked whisky this meant very little to me … until I tried the drink. Woah … this one was really smoky. Too smoky for both my friend and me – the pineapple was lost.

KI Buzz
KI Buzz

At this point, we split our tasting and I opted for the KI Buzz – gin, lemon and honey (Kangaroo Island produce, of course!). Easily my favourite cocktail of the four, you could definitely smell and taste the honey alongside the gin. It was quite sweet – and I personally would only manage one, but I can see this being a very popular cocktail.

My friend was on the Two Lifts – an homage to 2KW’s complicated access route – based around Aperol, Chartreuse and Vermouth. I’ll be honest – I thought this was … um … unpalatable but she really liked it.

A special mention goes to 2KW’s Vermouth Spritzer – the perfect antidote to a hot afternoon. It’s a simple mix of dark Spanish vermouth (Casa Mariol Vermut Negre) with soda water (and a slice of lime and some mint). This was absolutely delicious – very refreshing, balanced and eminently drinkable. I suspect (although you should confirm this) that it’s pretty low in alcohol, as the Vermouth comes in at just 15% abv. I liked this so much I tried to recreate it at home (with some dark Italian Vermouth) and failed miserably … I guess I’ll just have to keep trying!

Finally – if you are a bar lover, then you should be all over 2KW’s Sunday Sol sessions which launched the Sunday just gone. Pintxos, charcuterie, drinks, live music, DJs … and a focus on Vermouth (oh wait – that means it’s an opportunity to do Vermouth Spritzer research!). This coming Sunday is forecast to be 34 so there’s probably going to be no better place to hang out than 2KW’s bar …

2KW
2 King William Street
Adelaide SA 5000
8212 5511